DEVASTATED friends of a homeless woman who passed away hours after being found collapsed in Birkenhead Town Centre have paid heartfelt tribute.

Emergency services were called to Grange Pavement on Sunday afternoon to reports that a woman was having a medical episode.

The woman, known locally as Michelle, was taken to hospital but sadly died.

Police confirmed that the death was not being treated as suspicious and next of kin have been informed.

A file has been passed to the coroner.

A devastated friend of Michelle's told the Globe: "I can't believe she has gone. I'd only spoken to her a few hours before she died.

"She was always so upbeat and happy. So tragic."

Michelle attended sessions run by Birkenhead welfare groups including Hope for Fans Supporting Foodbanks and Hope for the hungry.

One person who tried to help her was Fans Supporting Foodbanks member and friend David Fitzpatrick.

He said: "She had been homeless on and off for a while but on this occasion she had only been homeless for a week.

"Her eyes used to light up when she saw me because I think she knew I wanted to help her and treat her like a human being.

"The heartbreaking thing is that when I last saw her on Sunday morning, before she left I gave her a hug and said 'tomorrow, we are going to get you off the streets.

"Sadly we were 24 hours too late."

He added: "It is a disgrace that people are dying on our streets. Liverpool have led the way in this area with Labre House, where people can go every night - after going to the Whitechapel Centre in the day.

"There is a lot more that could and should be done here - so that it is not all down to volunteers."

Also paying tribute was Donna Scully, a lawyer who volunteers with the homeless in Wirral.

She tweeted: "Absolutely heartbroken to hear about death of the lovely Michelle. She was a ray of light on Sunday mornings.

"Despite her tough life, she was always smiling, funny & grateful. Loved having her hair braided by hairdresser & didn't like butter on her sandwiches. Will miss her badly"

A spokesperson for Merseyside Police said: "We can confirm emergency services attended at Grange Pavement in Birkenhead on Sunday, 14 July following a report of a woman suffering a medical episode.

"Officers received a report from the North West Ambulance Service shortly after 12.15pm that a woman in her 50s had been treated at the scene and taken to hospital where she was sadly pronounced dead."